Spanish bullfighting was the furthest thing from my mind when I hung up the laundry. Nothing could have seemed more remote and foreign than Spain and the strange passions of Spaniards as I rinsed my clothes in the icy cold water under a pale autumn sky – and yet that famous spectacle was about to play itself out right here in the bush, Yukon style.
But I was blissfully unaware, sloshing jeans and wool sweaters around in the water, my fingers gone numb from the cold. The slick soles of my gum boots skidded over the carpet of golden leaves turned brown as I draped the soggy clothing over the rope haphazardly strung between the trees. Getting everything clean before winter settles in, let the laundry dry outside while it still can was my main objective – not long anymore until I’ll have to festoon the inside of the cabin with dripping socks, shirts and sweaters that will dry only glumly, reluctantly.
Instead, my laundry was now being blown dry by the wild storm gusts that threw themselves down the mountains, ripped off even more leaves and slammed against the cabin in a fury. Fine by me – I waited one day, then went and took down the clothing, everything fresh and dry except for a pair of jeans and a heavy jacket. The jeans were an unfortunate shade of purple, the embarrassing result of my efforts to dye a white pair of pants brown.
White pants don’t do well in the presence of dog hair, chicken manure and garden soil but absence of a washing machine. For a few bucks at the second hand store though, they had been irresistible: not only something that actually fit for a change but they appeared to be brand new. Lots of wear left in them. If only I could dye them a more sensible colour that would camouflage the majority of dirt coming their way.
Reincarnated in wretched purple, the formerly white pants might have had a similar effect on the moose cow wandering by that a red cloth has in Spanish bullfighting – although as far as I know, the Spanish choose red more for the benefit of the audience than because of any antagonistic colour effect on the bull. Sam and I were suddenly torn from the tedious task of digging compost into our garden beds by a guttural “hooooo.”
“What the…,” began Sam, only to be interrupted by another snort of “hoooo” and the clattering of rocks. Bear, bull moose, rifle, meat said Sam’s expression in rapid succession as we carefully crept behind cover, closer to where the angry sounds were coming from. His face fell in disappointment when we spotted not a bull, but a cow moose and calf.
Her hackles raised to porcupinal proportions, the cow stalked past slowly, stiff-leggedly, her calf close by her side. Every few seconds, another “hoooo” rumbled from deep inside her chest, its meaning underlined by her grim face as she kept glaring into the trees.
“What the…,” I echoed Sam. A bear in the trees? The dogs were all accounted for and innocent. But there was something that the moose was telling off. We kept waiting for the mystery animal to emerge and give chase but nothing happened except that the disgruntled moose and her confused calf slowly disappeared back into the forest.
We wrote it off as one more animal tale that didn’t quite make sense, another encounter without a satisfying ending, until I went to check on my laundry the following day and started laughing. The purple pants and most of the laundry line had disappeared, it seemed, until I discovered the jeans lying on the ground in a snarl of rope. A mess of broken off twigs lay scattered all over the place with signature moose prints pressed into the soil.
The poor moose must have walked through the laundry line, found herself suddenly attacked by a pair of purple pants and then done her best to intimidate the jacket. Successfully so: it was still hanging between the trees.
Why travel when foreign culture blossoms right here, up north, in the most unexpected places?
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters
of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.